By on 4.21.21 in Health & Environment

Throughout the pandemic, The Daily Yonder has been tracking COVID-19’s impact on rural America.

As of April 14, 2021, they reported that 14% of all COVID-19 cases in the U.S. occurred in rural (nonmetropolitan) counties. The rate of new infections has been lower in rural counties than metropolitan counties over the last two months, but the rural death rate was higher than the metro death rate.

Today, we are taking a closer look at the COVID-19 rates for rural counties in North Carolina.

Let’s define rural counties

First, we need to define what we mean by rural counties. We are using the definition of rural provided by the NC Rural Center. They define rural as a population density of 250 people per square mile or less. In North Carolina, 80 counties out of 100 are classified as rural.

Have COVID-19 infections grown or decreased statewide? In rural counties? In non-rural counties?

Infections grew by 20% in rural counties and by 26% in non-rural counties (suburban and urban) from Sunday, April 4th to Saturday, April 10th.

If so, how does that compare to the nation?

The nation also saw growth in its infection rate over the course of last week, though to a lesser extent than North Carolina. Nationally, new infections increased by 10% in rural counties and 6% in urban counties.

How much have deaths fallen in the last three months, if they have fallen?

Deaths have fallen by 86% in rural counties from their peak at the end of January, from 306 deaths in the last week of January to 42 deaths the first full week of April.

Urban counties also experienced a peak in the last week of January at 291 deaths and fell 77% to 67 deaths during the first full week of April.

What is the total number of infections in rural and non-rural NC counties last week (April 4th-10th)?

4,042 rural

9,200 non-rural

What is the total number of deaths last week in rural and non-rural NC counties?

42 rural

67 non-rural

How do infection rates in rural North Carolina counties compare to non-rural counties?

North Carolina is among the states with lower rural rates of infection than non-rural counties.

How many NC counties are in the Red Zone? (100+ per 100,000)

32 NC counties are in the red zone, 11 of which are rural (35%). This means that 14% of North Carolina’s 78 rural counties are in the red zone, versus 95% of North Carolina’s 22 non-rural counties. Orange County is the only urban county that is not currently in the red zone.

Top 5 rural counties with the most new infections from Sunday, April 4th to Saturday, April 10th

  • Nash (+199)
  • Harnett (+197)
  • Randolph (+192)
  • Surry (+162)
  • Brunswick (+142)

Rural counties with lowest number of new infections from Sunday, April 4th to Saturday, April 10th

  • Beaufort (+0)
  • Graham (+0)
  • Swain (+0)
  • Tyrrell (+0)
  • Gates (+1)

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